News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. Sept. 5, 2023: Black Cuban American former leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, today received the harshest sentence to date in the Jan. 2021 Capitol Hill sedition case.
The Florida born Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years in prison as a result of his central role in orchestrating a group of pro-Trump supporters to attack the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in a bid to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
This sentence, issued due to Tarrio’s conviction earlier this year for seditious conspiracy charges, represents the most severe penalty given thus far among the over 1,100 individuals facing charges related to the Capitol attack. It is anticipated to remain the most stringent sentence, as no other defendants are currently accused of offenses as grave as those attributed to Tarrio.
Prior to this, the longest prison term connected to January 6 was 18 years, given to Ethan Nordean, one of Tarrio’s co-defendants. This sentencing was mirrored in another case involving Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right group Oath Keepers militia, found guilty of sedition in relation to the Capitol breach.
Tarrio’s sentencing, delivered during a three-hour hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, concludes the sentencing process for the five members of the Proud Boys who were tried on seditious conspiracy charges this year. Other co-defendants, including Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Dominic Pezzola, received sentences ranging from 10 to 17 years last week.
Of note, Tarrio’s sentence stands out due not only to its duration but also for what it signifies about the current status of the Proud Boys. Following the Capitol attack, the group quickly became a focal point of the FBI’s investigation into the events of January 6, as numerous members were found to have played pivotal roles in breaching barricades and assaulting law enforcement.
Through various prosecutions, with Tarrio’s trial being the most significant, the Justice Department dismantled the group’s national leadership and effectively curtailed its involvement in large-scale and frequently violent pro-Trump rallies nationwide. Despite this, the Proud Boys have persisted in their role as “foot soldiers for the right,” as one member testified during Tarrio’s trial. The group has engaged in local conflicts surrounding issues like COVID-19 restrictions, antiracism education, and attacks against LGBTQ+ pride events.
The sentencing of Tarrio, 39, marks the end of a brief yet pugnacious career as a prominent figure within far-right circles during a period when these groups gained greater prominence within conservative politics. As the head of the Proud Boys, known for their aggressive form of nationalist rhetoric, Tarrio garnered attention when then-President Trump addressed the group during a presidential debate against Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Tarrio assumed leadership of the Proud Boys in 2018 after its founder, Gavin McInnes, stepped down. With strong connections to pro-Trump figures such as Roger J. Stone Jr., Tarrio was influential in right-wing circles, prompting even the prosecutors who secured his conviction to describe him as a “naturally charismatic leader” and “savvy propagandist” in a recent sentencing memo.
Following his sentencing, Tarrio raised two fingers in a peace or victory sign as he left the courtroom in the company of federal marshals.
Prosecutor Conor Mulroe had urged Judge Timothy J. Kelly to impose a 33-year prison term on Tarrio, citing the need for a significant penalty to deter extremists from interfering with future democratic processes. Mulroe contended that Tarrio was responsible for summoning his followers to Washington on January 6, leading them to the Capitol with force.
Tarrio’s lawyers, however, argued against these claims, asserting that neither he nor the Proud Boys had planned to storm the Capitol on that day. They maintained that the original intention was to confront opposition and protest, with subsequent events being unintended consequences.
Tarrio’s sentence marked the conclusion of a trial that spanned over three months and led him to express remorse for his role in the events of January 6.
While the sentences of the Proud Boys members have varied, their involvement in the Capitol attack underscores complex questions surrounding the terrorism sentencing enhancement. This adjustment allows sentences to be increased if actions were meant to influence government conduct through intimidation and coercion. Judge Kelly noted that the enhancement applies in each case, even though the actions did not involve typical acts of terrorism.
. Tarrio’s situation is unique in that he was in Baltimore on January 6, having been previously banned from the city due to unrelated criminal matters. The prosecution claimed that Tarrio knew he would be arrested in Washington and strategically planned his arrest to incite his followers.
On January 6, he observed the events from a distance and communicated with his subordinates as the pro-Trump mob, led by the Proud Boys, breached the Capitol.
In his final remarks, Tarrio apologized for his role on January 6 and stated that his trial had humbled him. He acknowledged that he could not believe Mr. Trump’s loss after the election, and claimed he reached out to law enforcement agencies before January 6 to express concerns about potential violence.
Tarrio’s sentencing underscores the ongoing ramifications of the Capitol attack and the legal consequences faced by those involved, while also highlighting the complexity of prosecuting cases related to domestic terrorism.